The new collective bargaining agreement (CBA) has implemented a number of changes to how the NHL operates, but there are also a few rule changes and new rules that players have been forced to adjust to in this shortened season.
Let's break down the new rule changes and determine if the adjustments made will help or hurt the game.
Note: For a complete list of major and minor changes to the rulebook this season, click here.
According to NHL.com, the minor penalty for slashing has been changed.
The group felt that slashes to the hand area were increasingly being used as a tactic by defenders to disrupt offensive players. The consensus was that officials no longer had to be certain that contact had been made with the hands (as opposed to the stick) in deciding whether or not to assess a slashing minor.
Slashing is dangerous because it can lead to serious injury, and since the league has put a much larger emphasis on safety over the last few years, this is a welcome and expected rule change.
Here's another change to this penalty.
The group did not believe there should be an automatic penalty for slashes when the result was a broken stick, but agreed that the vast majority of these plays should be penalized.
Sometimes a player uses a stick that, for some reason, doesn't have a lot left before it breaks. Assuming that the slash was the reason a player's stick broke and giving a minor penalty was unfair. It's good to see this rule changed.
Another rule change for this season includes players making contact with an opponent's face mask (via Chris Johnston of Sportsnet), which sounds like a penalty you hear about in football.
Couple small rule changes in NHL: Can't touch puck with hand to win a faceoff and can't grab a player's facemask. Both result in penalties.— Chris Johnston (@reporterchris) January 16, 2013
There's no reason for a player to put his hand in another guy's face mask, so I wouldn't expect this rule change to result in a lot more penalties.
One of the new rules is how players can handle the puck on faceoffs (per NHL.com).
Both players facing-off are prohibited from batting the puck with their hand in an attempt to win the face-off. Any attempt by either center to win the face-off by batting the puck with their hand shall result in a minor penalty. This penalty shall be announced as a "Minor Penalty for Delay of Game - Face-off Violation." Once the face-off is deemed complete (and winner of the face-off is clear), hand passes shall be enforced as per Rule 79.
In one of the most exciting moments of the 2012 NHL playoffs, Washington Capitals center Jay Beagle tried to hand-pass a puck off of a faceoff to a teammate in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference semifinals against the New York Rangers.
This hand-pass by Beagle probably would have been a penalty under the new rule.
The first example of a player getting a minor penalty because of this new rule was Pittsburgh Penguins center Brandon Sutter on Sunday. He passed the puck between his legs to a teammate using his hands.
This is another good change because faceoffs are so important, especially late in games. It wouldn't be fair for players to gain an advantage by hand-passing the puck to a teammate when they probably wouldn't have won the faceoff otherwise.
Rule 67 has been changed to prevent players from getting a faceoff by putting their glove on the puck anywhere on the ice and not allowing play to continue.
Any time a player places his hand over the puck while it is on the ice in order to conceal it from or prevent an opponent from playing the puck, a minor penalty will be assessed for "closing his hand on the puck."
When this is done in his own team's goal crease area, a penalty shot (67.4) will be awarded. If this occurs with the offending team's netminder pulled for an extra attacker, a goal is automatically awarded (67.5).
Also, a minor penalty will be imposed on a player who, while play is in progress, picks the puck up off the ice with his hand.
In Sunday's game between the New York Rangers and Pittsburgh Penguins, Rangers forward Brad Richards violated this new rule. I was a bit surprised that a veteran like Richards did this with a referee looking right at him from a few feet away.
This is a great rule change because it would be extremely unfair for players to just stop the flow of the game, especially in the final seconds of the third period or in overtime, by preventing anyone from being able to play the puck.
Overall, these rule changes are good for the NHL and should help the games flow a bit better. Some people thought that, coming out of the lockout, we would see some more drastic rule changes such as the red line being put back on the ice.
The league didn't approve any changes of that magnitude, but the Board of Governors can still make rule adjustments on a yearly basis.
One rule which was put in after the 2004-05 lockout that should probably go away is the trapezoid to the left and right of goaltenders, which prohibits them from playing the puck in that area below the goal line. This rule has not helped the game much at all.
What do you think of the new rule changes? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.